Fort Mason Streetcar Extension Update

Eastern Fort Mason Tunnel entrance at the foot of Van Ness Avenue.The Examiner has a comprehensive update today on the proposed historic streetcar extension to Fort Mason. It tells the story better than we could, so click on that link above and read it for yourself.

We’ll just add that we have been working on this for a very long time. It had gotten snagged in an unrelated matter. Not long after the Environmental Impact Statement had been certified in 2013, the National Park Service announced it would study the possibility of moving the Alcatraz ferry landing from Pier 31 to Fort Mason. This attraction, which draws over a million visitors a year, would have overrun Fort Mason, with or without a streetcar line, in our opinion. We opposed it, as did Fort Mason Center, which operates that center for nonprofits. So did the Fisherman’s Wharf merchants and numerous other groups that do support the streetcar extension.

The threat of moving the ferries led Supervisor Mark Farrell, who represents the Marina, to put a hold on moving the streetcar extension forward until the Alcatraz ferry location was settled. Now it is; it’s staying at Pier 31. Supervisor Farrell has told us he supports the streetcar extension and this grant application.

The uncertainty in Washington over, well, almost everything, but specifically National Park Service funding does raise a question over how much longer it will take to get the extension built (the post of money funding the grant the Examiner discussed is approved, but we still have to win it!). So one of the things this grant would study is the possibility of an interim terminal short of the tunnel, with the tunnel rehabilitation (about $10 million) and Fort Mason loop to be done in a Phase 2.

We still hope the entire extension can be done all at once, but this is a sensible approach given what’s going on in DC. An initial extension that got closer to Ghirardelli Square and Aquatic Park and within easy walking distance of Fort Mason would have the great benefit of being able to separate the terminals for the E- and F-lines, which currently share the same single-track terminal on Jones Street. That would improve the operating reliability of both lines.

We’ll keep you updated on the status of the grant application. We thank SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin and his staff for their support of the grant, and our Board Member Carmen Clark for her efforts in working with SFMTA staff and that of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, in preparing the grant application.

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Support for Fort Mason Extension

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The long-proposed historic streetcar extension west from Fisherman’s Wharf to Fort Mason Center is gaining momentum.

What you see above is how the terminal inside Fort Mason could look. The streetcars in the photo would turn left just before that wall at top and enter the historic 1914 railroad tunnel to reach Aquatic Park and Fisherman’s Wharf, then on to the Ferry Building and beyond.

Yesterday, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency presented a unanimous resolution to the SFMTA Board of Directors supporting the extension. SFMTA Board Chair Tom Nolan responded with his own strong support for the extension.

Several members of the public added their public endorsement, including Marina District resident Mike Wilmar. Fort Mason Center Board Chair Jim Chappell recounted how the lack of direct Muni connections to regional transit such as BART and Caltrain makes it hard for many non-profit groups to base themselves at Fort Mason. Market Street Railway President Rick Laubscher offered his opinion that the project may have been slow to take root within SFMTA staff because the environmental work, now complete, was performed by the National Park Service, whose property forms half the extension’s 0.85 miles. Now, though, with various obstacles cleared away, it’s time to move forward, he said.

The photo above is taken from the National Park Service’s Environmental Impact Statement. It’s a huge document, but you can download individual chapters, or the whole thing, here.

There is much more to this story, and we will have it for our Members in the next issue of our quarterly newsletter, Inside Track. (If you’re not a member, you can join now and get the current issue sent to you, or request it electronically.)  We will also post further developments in the story here. Also, there is a new Facebook group, independent of Market Street Railway, that also supports the extension. On Facebook, search for “@fortmasonstreetcar” or “Bring Streetcars to Fort Mason Project” and Like that page. Visible public support, especially from those who work and live along the route, in the Marina District, at Fort Mason, or in Fisherman’s Wharf, is critical to its success.

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